Fatalism

Oxford Bibliographies Online (2014)
Authors
Patrick Todd
University of Edinburgh
Abstract
In contemporary philosophy, arguments for “fatalism” are arguments for the conclusion that no human actions are free. Such arguments typically come in two varieties: logical and theological. Arguments for logical fatalism proceed, roughly, from truths about future actions to the conclusion that those actions are unavoidable, and hence unfree. Arguments for theological fatalism, on the other hand, proceed, roughly, from divine beliefs about future actions to the conclusion that those actions are unavoidable, and hence unfree. What is characteristic of any argument for fatalism is that, first, it purports to show by appeal to quite general logical or metaphysical assumptions that no human action is free, and, second, it does so without explicitly invoking the thesis that those actions are causally determined. There is, of course, a venerable argument for the conclusion that causal determinism is incompatible with free will (understood as the ability to do otherwise), but philosophers advancing such arguments are not now generally understood to be advancing the cause of “fatalism.” To endorse fatalism is thus not simply to endorse the view that no human action is free, but also to endorse the further claim that this can be shown by appeal to the general logical or metaphysical assumptions at issue. Fatalistic arguments of both sorts are and have been intimately bound up with philosophical questions about the logical status of future contingent propositions—propositions saying of causally undetermined events that they will happen. This entry will thus cover the main positions in the debates concerning logical fatalism, the logic of future contingents, and theological fatalism.
Keywords Fatalism  Future Contingents  Free Will
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